Miss us? Last week we were working non-stop in Las Vegas. When our presentations were through, we took time to be customers and visit Vegas retail thorough the eyes of the consumer.
It’s slower than usual in Las Vegas right now, so the casinos are pulling out all the stops to attract visitors. Already excellent customer service in hotels and casinos has moved up another notch. One would think that retailers would do the same, but one would be wrong. What is it about slow times in stores? This is when customer service should shine but sometimes the opposite happens: associates become lethargic and shoppers don’t like it. If you own the store you don’t like it either. The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot take a single customer for granted. And it goes without saying that every single person who walks in the front door must feel welcome. We all learned that in Retailing 101 – the first day on the job.
But it doesn’t always happen, even in the finest of establishments.
Take for example, my (Georganne) experience in a tiny designer shoe store at The Forum Shoppes at Caesars. Two sales associates were talking to one another in the center if the store. They continued their conversation the entire time I was there, never once stopping to greet me or even acknowledge my presence; and trust me, they knew I was there. I found a pair of shoes I wanted to try on, but since the associates were otherwise occupied, I left the store empty-handed.
Then I got mad. So I turned around and went back in the store. I told the associates that I had planned on purchasing a pair of shoes, but since they couldn’t be bothered to help me that wasn’t going to happen. You know what they said? Nothing.
Here’s the deal:
Service providers believe they are giving the best customer care possible, but customers beg to differ. Customers aren't buying excuses; they only care about what actually happened in the store. Here are three things to consider:
1. According to a recent poll conducted by America's Research Group, a consumer-behavior research firm, one in four shoppers said they walked out of a store because of poor customer service. (That's 25 percent of your customers – can you afford to walk 25 percent of you customers in this economy?)
2. More than half (58 percent) of shoppers polled said they planned to avoid stores they perceive as understaffed. (That perception is a dangerous thing.)
3. According to a study conducted by the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 48 percent of shoppers said they would not patronize stores where they know someone else had had a bad experience. (Customers used to tell 10 – 20 people about a bad experience, now they tell millions on the Internets.)
Today, it isn't just about the product you sell or the services and conveniences you offer, it's also about how well you care for your customers.
Here are three more things to consider:
1. Practice our 7-Tile Rule: Every single time any associate comes within seven floor tiles - that's seven feet - of a customer they MUST acknowledge them. That acknowledgement might only be a sincere smile, but trust us, that smile will work wonders. If you come across a customer five times, then she needs to be acknowledged five times.
2. It's better to respond to a customer than it is to react. A reaction is a throw away answer with no eye contact; a response requires eye contact, a smile, and a thoughtful answer to the customer's request. A reaction makes a customer feel like she is an interruption; a response will make that same customer feel like she's the most important person in the store.
3. Engage customers in conversation. Talk about trends, upcoming classes or events, product, even the weather. The goal is to break the ice and make customers feel at home in the store.
The things you do in your store right now, when times are tough, are the very things that make you a good retailer. Be diligent about how you care for your customers. Reverse the trend from lip service to actual customer service. Every shopper, whether they buy today or not, is a potential customer. How shoppers are treated today determines whether or not they'll be back to shop again tomorrow.